Discover the Lost Art of Keying Wild Plants

| 5/17/2010 2:57:11 PM

E.McIntoshErin is the Communications Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs and an apprenticing herbalist at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies, where she botanizes and wildcrafts medicinal plants in the magnificent Oregon Cascades. 

Sunlight peeks through the misty morning canopy and dapples the open book in my lap with gold. A soft breeze whispers through the forest carrying the fragrance of May blossoms and bird songs. I sit in a wet patch of fluttering Oxalis, a wild yellow violet smiling into my hand lens, and read the couplet aloud…    

26a - Leaves finely dotted, flecked, or reticulately mottled with purple, rather firm and coriaceous, persistent and generally pubescent, plant stoloniferous; mostly in moist woods. Viola sempervirens

26b - Leaves not flecked with purple, thin, generally withering during the winter, often glabrous, plant not stoloniferous; montane to alpine. Viola orbiculata

After careful examination of snaking shoots and leathery leaves, I discover that this spring beauty is indeed Viola sempervirens, the Evergreen Violet!

Erin keying out a furry Cat's Ear Lily at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum.